Skip to content

Updated: 3:08 p.m.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) chose to make a little history of his own Friday, eschewing conventional picks for vice president and choosing first-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the second woman ever selected for a presidential ticket and the first Republican.

McCain announced the pick at a rally in Dayton, Ohio, praising Palin as a fellow maverick willing to take on the status quo in Washington, D.C., as Republicans sought to blunt Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) bounce from his presidential nomination Thursday night, 45 years after Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Looking to court female voters disaffected by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) primary loss, Palin made explicit references to earlier candidacies by Democrats Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro.

Clinton, she noted, had left 18 million cracks in the “highest, hardest glass ceiling,” and had campaigned “with determination and grace.”

“The women of America aren’t finished yet and we can shatter that glass ceiling once and for all,” Palin exclaimed.

She talked of her life as “just your average hockey mom” who never envisioned herself on a presidential ticket, of taking on oil companies and other entrenched interests, including the “old boys’ network.”

“Some of life’s greatest opportunities come unexpectedly, and that’s certainly the case today,” she said.

She also talked of pursuing a reform agenda and opposing wasteful projects such as the infamous “Bridge to Nowhere,” earmarked by Alaska Rep. Don Young (R).

“I told Congress: Thanks, but no thanks on that Bridge to Nowhere,” she said to roars from the crowd. She added that it hasn’t always been easy to take on the system, but “I didn’t get into politics to do safe and easy things.”

“I have found the right partner to stand up to those who value their privileges over their responsibilities,” McCain said at the rally.

He added that Palin has an “outstanding reputation for standing up to special interests and entrenched bureaucrats.”

Being from Alaska, Palin’s candidacy also puts the issue of high energy prices and opening more land to oil drilling squarely in the center of the presidential race.

McCain’s campaign said Palin had taken on big oil companies while supporting energy development, and has tackled the state’s corruption.

McCain’s campaign also noted that Palin is the mother of soldier who will soon go to Iraq and that she is the head of Alaska’s National Guard.

“Governor Palin understands what it takes to lead our nation and she understands the importance of supporting our troops,” the campaign stated.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee also wasted no time in using McCain’s choice of Palin as part of its fundraising efforts.

In an e-mail sent to supporters Friday afternoon, prolific NRSC fundraiser Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah) praised Palin as a “a serious conservative. She’s a reformer. She’s a mother of five. As Vice President she would have more executive experience than presidential aspirant Barack Obama. And as the second woman ever to be a major party nominee for Vice President, her nomination represents a historic opportunity.”

The e-mail also included a link for recipients to donate to the NRSC.

But Democrats quickly pounced on the choice as a desperate maneuver that eliminated McCain’s argument that experience is the race’s defining factor.

Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Charles Schumer (N.Y.) called the choice of Palin a “Hail Mary pass.”

“It is a real roll of the dice and shows how John McCain, Karl Rove et. al. realize what a strong position the Obama-Biden team and Democrats in general are in in this election,” Schumer contended, referring to vice presidential nominee Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.).

“Certainly the choice of Palin puts to rest any argument about inexperience on the Democratic team and while Palin is a fine person, her lack of experience makes the thought of her assuming the presidency troubling.”

“I particularly look forward to the Biden-Palin debate in Missouri,” Schumer stated.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) also slammed McCain’s choice: “John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin raises serious questions about his judgment. … Why, with so many other qualified women and men in his party, did John McCain choose Sarah Palin? … She shares John McCain’s commitment to overturning Roe v. Wade and continuing George Bush’s failed economic policies.”

GOP women were quick to praise Palin before the start of the Republican convention in Minneapolis/St. Paul on Monday.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), whose father – former Sen. and Gov. Frank Murkowski (R) Palin defeated to win the governor’s mansion – praised McCain’s choice.

“John McCain has taken a bold step today in choosing Gov. Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate. Gov. Palin has risen to every challenge she’s faced, and her choice is historic for Alaska and for the women of America.”

Added Murkowski: “Sarah brings a great deal of excitement to the campaign and she makes Alaskans proud. Gov. Palin understands and is a leader on the most crucial issue facing our nation today – energy. Her candidacy will highlight Alaska’s critical role as a state that can help meet our nation’s energy needs through domestic oil and gas exploration and development.”

“I am absolutely beside myself with joy. I think this will be a day remembered for years to come as a breakthrough for women,” Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) said.

Bachmann, who met Palin during a Congressional trip last month, said she could expand the party’s appeal to women who have historically tilted to the Democrats.

“I believe that [what] this demonstrates to American women is that Republicans understand American women and American women’s needs.”

Bachmann added Palin would be a role model: “This will show to the American women you can be married, you can have a business and you can also be engaged and be a serious candidate for the president of the United States.”

Bachmann also said there is an opening with women who are unhappy that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) chose not to select Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) as his running mate.

“A lot of women were very disaffected when he chose to slight Hillary Clinton by not even asking her to submit vetting materials,” Bachmann said.

“We’ve seen a great deal of disunity in the Democratic process this week because women felt shut out, quite frankly,” Bachmann charged. The pick of Palin shows that “we see the importance of women and we see the vitality that women can bring to the cause.”

Aside from appealing to a key demographic – suburban women – Palin’s message sounds like exactly what Republicans are looking for as gasoline prices soar across the country and the economy enters what many experts consider to be a recession in part because of the energy crisis.

Palin, an outsider populist with sky-high approval ratings, took office in 2006 after defeating then-Gov. Murkowski in a three-way primary.

She ran on an anti-corruption message and supported her running mate, Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell (R), in his primary bid for the House against ethically tainted Young. The results of that primary, which occurred on Tuesday, are still out.

But despite her statewide popularity, Palin has a publicly discordant relationship with the chairman of the Alaska Republican Party, whom she reported for ethical misconduct in the Murkowski administration. She admitted she would not know if the state party was speaking with the national party about a potential vice presidential candidacy.

“We don’t have that kind of relationship where they would pass on any good information to McCain or the national GOP,” she said. “I just acknowledge that and that’s fine.”

Recent Stories

Kim launches primary challenge after Menendez refuses to quit

Four spending bills readied for House floor amid stopgap uncertainty

Menendez rejects New Jersey Democrats’ calls to resign after indictment

Photos of the week ending September 22, 2023

Dressing down — Congressional Hits and Misses

Menendez indictment comes with Democrats playing 2024 defense